THE CRIMSON RIVERS
The Crimson Rivers is a French Se7en (1995). Well that is the comparison a number of kneejerk critics made, yet while Crimson Rivers does have an undeniable debt of gratitude in Se7ens direction, it has a good deal more originality than merely being a slavish copy. It sweeps an ambitious plot more a double plot that eventually dovetails together. Director Mathieu Kassovitz whips this around a number of exciting dramatic flourishes and scenes that have been staged for visual impact. There are a few points that are never satisfactorily resolved or explained by the end it is never clear, for instance, whether it was the university or the killer who did the desecration and school break-in. Why did they choose twenty years later to cover up the evidence? Or why for that matter did they use one victims Lada?
Mathieu Kassovitz directs with a great deal of style. The film is staged with a bold eye toward the landscape, with the camera sweeping away to show mountains hanging over the township and Kassovitz taking trips up to the mountain-top and even down into the interior of a glacier. There are some strong shock images of mutilated and crucified corpses. There are times when Kassovitz throws in stock action scenes a car chase and a particularly gratuitous martial arts sequence that seem contrived and unnecessary in trying to generate drama. There are however other set-pieces that are good and gripping a shootout with a hooded figure who has Jean Reno at gunpoint and a hair-raising climactic fight in the face of an oncoming avalanche.
Mathieu Kassovitz casts Jean Reno, who gives an always reliable performance of weatherbeaten charm. Indeed, The Crimson Rivers could give the impression that ruffled and unshaven might be a mandatory dress code for all French detectives. Vincent Cassel is cast as the secondary cop, a part where he contrasts handsome Hollywood looks with a volatile intensity. It is a performance where Cassel exudes a sharp charisma that overshadows if not even eclipses the presence of Jean Reno.
Crimson Rivers II: Angels of the Apocalypse (2003), was a disappointing sequel that featured a return performance from Jean Reno and was written by no less than Luc Besson.
Director Mathieu Kassovitz first gained attention with his second film La Haine (1995), concerning itself with violence in French minority neighbourhoods. He was next brought to Hollywood to helm the Halle Berry ghost story Gothika (2003) and went onto make the Cyberpunk film Babylon A.D. (2008) and the historical film Rebellion (2011).